The Sky 's the Limit'

Helicopter enthusiasts stir things up at Pops 66 in Oklahoma

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

ARCADIA, Okla. -- The unusual sight of five helicopters landing outside of the Pops c-store on Route 66 last month may become a regular event, officials with the novelty destination site told CSP Daily News. "It's great for the customers," said Marty Doepke, general manager for Pops, which sits northeast of Oklahoma City and features not only a 66-foot-tall glowing soda bottle out front, but also a variety of soda brands and flavors inside. "We're one of those types of places where the mindset is you never know what you're going to see."

Far from a planned marketing [image-nocss] stunt, the helicopter invasion sprang from the whim of a single pilot. Part of a helicopter enthusiasts club-the Tulsa chapter of the Oklahoma Helicopter Pilots' Association-the pilot decided to make a stop at Pop 66 for some of their specialized sodas. He held a taste test back at the hanger in Tulsa, which sparked the idea of five pilots going there at the same time. Doepke said the group is thinking about making the visit a monthly event.

He compares the helicopter "road trip" to what motorcycle and car clubs often do, which is to plan a trip with predetermined stops along the way. They call it a "poker run," according to Doepke. On any given day, Pops could have 100 motorcycles parked in its lot and or 30 Corvettes. When the five helicopters flew in on a Sunday last month, customers ran out to the lot to take pictures, he said.

Being in a rural spot allows the room for such spontaneous events and creates the business case for Pops. "[Our idea was to] build something where people came to us instead of being where the people are," Doepke said, noting that success for such a remote location meant creating a unique destination point. But he said people keep offering ideas, such as putting in a landing strip for small planes. "After helicopters, the sky's the limit."

[Editor's Note: For more on how retailers are creating excitement within their stores, look for CSP magazine's March cover story on engaging the consumer and staying relevant.]

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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